Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The “Decade” in Review

If you count funny

First off, this isn’t the end of the decade. It’s the end of A decade, technically, in terms of a consecutive grouping of ten years. But it’s the end of the first decade of the 21st century only if you count 0-1-2-3-4-5-9-7-8-9, rather than 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 like normal people. But, I need something to blog about and “end of the decade reviews” seem to be all the rage at the other blogs I like to read, so what the hell. If I remember to recycle these, it should really reduce the work-effort at this time next year.

My plan over the next week or so is to have fun and slack off a lot. Oh yeah, and my plan, as far as this blog is concerned, is to write the following articles and put them up between now and the end of the year, skipping Christmas and New Year’s, and possibly some of the “eve” holidays that get thrown in alongside them. The articles to expect include:

•    Favorite Films and TV of the “Decade”
•    Favorite Books of the “Decade”
•    Most Disappointing Films of the “Decade”
•    Upcoming Stuff I’m Excited About

And to be clear, these will be the best and worst of stuff I’ve actually seen. It’s not a grand round-up of everything, just the highlights and lowlights of what I actually experienced. And with no further ado, let’s get started:

My Approximately 20 Most Disappointing Films of the “Decade”

In no particular order

I’m usually pretty good at sussing out which movies suck out loud before I go to see them, so this isn’t an awfully long list. I managed to avoid Star Trek: Nemesis entirely, for example, just based on the universally awful reviews. Sometimes, though, I’m just overwhelmed by quality marketing or loyalty to a particular director or action. The converse is not true, however – I can’t always predict the really good movies in advance, so sometimes it takes me a while to discover movies that I should have seen when they were brand new. The Kill Bill movies are probably the best example of this, though I was fairly underwhelmed by Pulp Fiction so it’s kind of a wash there. Here are some movies I did see, ranging in quality from lackluster to real stink bombs.

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) – after Pitch Black, this should have been an awesome movie. Vin Diesel’s character with the metal eyes that let him see in the dark was a fascinating, futuristic anti-hero who you rooted for even knowing he was a cold-hearted criminal. The problem with the Chronicles of Riddick is that I’ve seen it twice and still don’t know what the hell it was about.

Star Wars Episodes 2 & 3 (2002 and 2005) – these weren’t unqualified stinkers by any means, and at least they made very little use of the vile Jar Jar Binks, they just weren’t that good. The prequels were so full of potential, but honestly the only really, truly outstanding films of the entire 6-movie series were Star Wars and Empire. I find myself looking forward to the inevitable mini-series remake in 15-20 years when somebody who actually knows how to write can plug the various plot holes, put acting ahead of special effects, and produce the “saga for the ages” that Star Wars should have been.

The Matrix 2 & 3 (2003) – to the same extent that the Wachowski Brothers hit one out of the park with the original Matrix film, these crummy sequels are pop flies right into the catcher’s mitt. Like with Star Wars, the creators succeeded in making an initial film that blew everybody away with its combination of a retelling of stories founded in various myths and archetypes with impressive, even revolutionary special effects. Then they took a dirt nap on the sequels, just plowing nose-first into the soil. The latter two Matrix movies were all flash, no substance, and lacked the character and soul of the original.

Battlefield Earth (2000) – no “worst of” list would be complete without mentioning this total piece of crap. If you’ve seen it, you know why I hated it. If you haven’t, don’t. And be glad.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) – it wasn’t a truly awful movie, but it sure failed to live up both to the hype and to the quality of its predecessors. I still liked it better than Temple of Doom, but please let this series die.

X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006) – this movie just plain sucked, particularly the pointless and ridiculously bad end-battle where Magneto (champion of mutants) sends his mutant legions to be uselessly slaughtered in small batches while he grandiosely watches from the Golden Gate Bridge – which he has picked up and moved just because he can. Bryan Singer, why have you abandoned us? The first two movies were terrific, whereas the third squandered the promise of the Phoenix character and everything else about this dumb plot.

Spider-Man 3 – not as bad as the third X-Men movies, but still a big question-mark to the quandary of why people who are brilliant at making movie #1 and even movie #2 fail so miserably at movie #3 in a series. It wasn’t unwatchable, but it wasn’t as good as it should have been. And with Raimi at the helm, it doesn’t even have the excuse that X-Men had when they lost Byran Singer on their third film.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – yeah, I know everybody else has it on their “Best of” list. Too artsy for me or something – I’ve seen it twice and didn’t care for it at all.

Terminator: Salvation (2009) – What the hell was this movie about, again? Damned if I know. There were so many plot holes and dumb scenes in this movie, it was hard to suspend disbelief even as a simple popcorn flick. Seeing Arnold as a terminator again was cool as hell, even if it was only for about three seconds, but the rest of the movie didn’t do much for me. I’m glad Dark Knight and Avatar will ensure that Christian Bale and Sam Worthington still have careers.

Body of Lies (2008) – This political thriller, or whatever it was, was one big yawn-fest. Didn’t like it.

The Assassination of Jessie James (by the Coward Robert Ford) (2007) – Egads this movie was terrible. I can’t remember if we watched the entire thing or not, but for as much of it as we could stand it seemed to have no redeeming qualities.

Cloverfield (2000) – again, I know this shakey-cam, “Monster? Where??” movie was a big hit with a lot of people and made their “best of” lists. I found that I didn’t really care about the characters, didn’t really understand what the hell was going on most of the time, and was glad when the whole thing was over. I’ll take John Carpenter’s “The Thing” or Ridley Scott’s “Alien” if I want a good monster movie where the monster’s not really a main character. Cloverfield was dull.

Children of Men (2006) – I think this is the third movie on my list that made a lot of critics “best of” compilations. Yeah, big deal. I call ‘em like I see ‘em, and this movie was crap. I never did find a good explanation for why the last fertile woman on Earth was being shot at by the government, but, let’s face it, their society was screwed regardless. You can’t repopulate a species with one fertile female, regardless of what the Book of Genesis claims.

The Bridge to Terebithia (2007) – I suspect this movie was just terribly mis-marketed, but we went in expecting a story about children in a fairytale world and what we got was something much more down-to-earth and a lot less fun. The ending, in particular, was a big bring-down and if there was some sort of redemption in there someplace, I failed to see it.

Underworld and Underworld: Evolution (2003 and 2007) – how do you screw up a movie with Kate Beckinsale, a decent budget and an epic battle between Vampires and Werewolves? I’m not sure how you do it, but to see the results just check out these two movies. They were action-heavy but light on story and not big on making sense. I really wanted to love them, but came away disappointed.

Kingdom of Heaven (2005) – It’s Ridley Scott, for crying out loud! It had huge castles built in the deserts of Morocco! It should have rocked. It didn’t – the story was dull and didn’t hold my interest, despite the epic battle scenes.

National Treasure (2004) – I don’t know what to say about this film. Like so many Nicholas Cage movies, this one was just dumb.

Men in Black II (2002) – after the wonder and majesty of the original Men in Black, MIB II failed to deliver. It missed the snappy humor of the original, the enemy wasn’t as interesting as Vincent D’Onofrio, and Agent J was a lot less fun as a pro than he was as a rookie. If they could flash me with the neutralizer, I think I’d prefer to forget this movie and just remember the first one.

So that's my wrap-up. Next year I'll add a few more stinkers and make it my "25 worst" list.

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